The Elegant Universe


The Perseid meteor shower nudged me outside at three in the morning to gaze at the black sky dotted with twinkling constellations. I gasped each time I saw a star shoot across the sky. I wasn’t thinking about science; I was there for the beauty.

The celestial spectacle must have sprinkled down a little magic stardust to lift me far above my personal and planetary desires. My mind became empty, and I was transported. I floated above my Earth-bound concerns, completely aware of the vastness of the universe and the smallness of little ol’ me.

Only one thought pulsed through my being ~ the universe was created with such elegance.

The Elegant Universe is the title of the book that inspired the popular Nova series by the same name. It explores superstrings, hidden dimensions, and parallel worlds beyond my understanding. I am more poetess than physicist, but I do adore the title.

Elegance can be defined as that which is exceptionally beautiful and simple, modest and at the same time bright. There is elegance in a snowflake, a spider’s web, a mourning dove, the big dipper. Wikipedia adds, “Elegant things exhibit refined grace and suggest maturity.”

There’s no need to point out the lack of elegance littering on our planet. Politics, pop culture, and nightly news make that clear, but these are things over which I have little influence. I’m but a single star in the infinite cosmos.

Am I shining “like a diamond in the sky” as the nursery song encouraged?

We were created to be brilliant. We have a responsibility to add goodness to the universe. Imagine if each of us blazed through our days, leaving our own trail of light and love in an otherwise dark world.

Under the spell of the Perseid meteor shower, I stopped wishing and set an intention ~ to use my thoughts, words, actions, gifts, and blessings to add to the elegance of the universe. 

I will often fall short. As Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” ยง

City Mouse, Country Mouse


The past few years my husband I had many discussions about our retirement plans. Consideration of family and budget helped narrow our choices, but we were still undecided. The question remained ~ did we want to live as the proverbial city mouse or country mouse?

Sometimes we dreamed of living in a sharp condo in the city. “We could go to concerts, sporting events, and restaurants,” Mike said. “You know how I love the arts,” I added. “We could be patrons of the theatre, ballet, and symphony.”

Yes, we would enjoy the life of a city mouse.

Sometimes we dreamed of living in a secluded cabin on a lake. “We could hike, kayak, and swim,” Mike said. “You know how I love nature,” I added. “We could be surrounded by peace and quiet.”

Yes, the life of a country mouse would be wonderful.

On little more than an instinctual whim, this past spring we moved to a lake house in woods. Recently, we spent a weekend in Chicago visiting our daughter who lives and works amid the hustle and bustle of the city.

We sipped champagne in a swanky bar while listening to a jazz trio play Etta James. We strolled through a museum, standing inches from beautiful works of art. We dined at hip restaurants and tasted trendy cuisine. The city was exciting and energizing.

From inside a taxi, I watched throngs of people rush past each other. The driver blared his horn and braked sporadically to avoid unpredictable pedestrians. It reminded me of driving the winding roads near our house, stopping for animals that run out of the woods without warning.

The crowds in the crosswalk turned into forest animals. Deer tottered in high heels, foxes talked on cell phones, and hipster turtles strolled slowly across the road. I shook my head to stop my silly imagination and realized I was a little homesick.

We were sightseeing at Navy Pier, Chicago’s busiest summer tourist spot. To escape the crowds, we found a table tucked in the corner of a restaurant patio. Instead of looking at the magnificent view of the Windy City rising up from the shoreline of Lake Michigan, Mike and I quietly watched a handful of birds enjoy a pile of discarded French fries.

He looked at me and said definitively, “Honey, I’m a country mouse.”  I smiled and winked, “Me too.”

The city will always be a nice place to visit, but we’re thrilled we followed our intuition and retired to the country. True, there isn’t nearby shopping, restaurants, or cultural entertainment. But we drift to sleep to the soothing sound of crickets and bullfrogs in the still, starry night. We rarely find ourselves in a line of cars or people. And we will never tire of working and playing alongside our forest friends who live in our neck of the woods.

And so, in the simple life of a country mouse, they lived happily ever.